Victory for Jaguars: Obama Pledges Recovery Plan, Habitat Protection
Capping a 13-year battle to save the American jaguar from extinction, this week the Center for Biological Diversity won a decision from the Obama administration to develop a recovery plan and protect essential habitat for North America's largest and most endangered cat.
The Bush administration had twice declared that it would not recover, reintroduce, or do anything to protect jaguars in the United States. Twice the Center's legal team filed suit and struck down the illegal decisions. This left the final decision up to Obama, but until the last moment, we were uncertain he would do the right thing as he has not made endangered species a priority to date.
Now that the Obama administration has committed to developing a federal recovery plan and mapping out the jaguar's critical habitat, the long, hard work of saving the American jaguar can begin.
I want to personally thank the tens of thousands of Center supporters who sent emails to the Obama administration to save the jaguar. You really showed the administration how important and popular jaguar conservation is. I also want to thank the thousands of people who contributed financially to keep our jaguar campaign going these 13 long years; without you, we couldn't have done it.
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
Black Mesa Coal Mine Expansion Halted
Last week one of the country's most destructive dirty-coal complexes suffered a major setback when, in response to work by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, a judge nixed a permit to expand the already massive Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines. Because of appeals filed by the Center, other environmental groups, and a host of local tribal groups and individuals, Peabody Energy -- the largest private coal company in the world -- won't be able to operate and expand both mines under a single permit. The permit would have allowed Peabody to mine an additional 6.35 million tons of coal per year, which the Center estimates would add up to more than 100 million tons.
Of course, all those tons of coal would have ended up disgorging hundreds of millions more tons of greenhouse gases into the air. Plus, an expansion would have hurt species like the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub, Mexican spotted owl, southwestern willow flycatcher, and Little Colorado spinedace, as well as their habitat.
Last month, in response to objections by the Center and allies, a judge struck down a controversial water permit for Black Mesa that was poisoning wildlife and tainting local communities' groundwater.
Read more in the Arizona Daily Sun.
Fourteen Endangered Birds to Earn U.S. Protection
As a result of a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a rule to protect two endangered birds, native to Galápagos and Papua New Guinea, under the Endangered Species Act. The Galápagos petrel, a dark-rumped seabird known to Galápagos Island natives as "web-footed one," is most seriously threatened by introduced predators and farm animals that tear up its habitat. The Heinroth's shearwater, an elusive bird thought to breed in Papua New Guinea and the nearby Solomon Islands, is also threatened by nonnative predators; its habitat is being destroyed by deforestation as well as commercial fishing operations.
Also in response to Center legal work, the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to protect 12 birds from Peru, Bolivia, Europe, and French Polynesia.
Check out our press release and learn more about the Galápagos petrel and the Center's International Birds Initiative.
Green Sturgeon Gains Protection From Fishing
Following the Center for Biological Diversity's successful work to protect the southern green sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act, last month the California Fish and Game Commission voted to close a big stretch of the species' primary spawning grounds on the upper Sacramento River to all sturgeon fishing. That means starting March 1, adult green sturgeon -- down to critically low numbers -- can no longer be fished in the deep holes they like to hide in after reproducing in the river. The closure will also benefit white sturgeon reproduction.
Work will also soon start on a major fish-passage project at the Red Bluff Diversion Dam, an impediment to green sturgeon and salmon migration in the upper Sacramento. The last straw for dammed fish came in 2007, when dam gates crushed a significant number of spawning green sturgeon. The new fish-passage project will replace the gates by 2012, greatly improving migration for endangered sturgeon, salmon, and steelhead.
Learn more about the green sturgeon and the victories the Center earned for it, including 8.6 million acres of critical habitat and strong federal protective regulations.
Feds: Yes, Manatee Needs More Habitat; No, We Won't Grant It
In response to a petition by the Center and allies, this week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the endangered Florida manatee indeed needs new federal habitat protections -- but put off actually granting those protections indefinitely. Since "critical habitat" was set aside for the manatee more than three decades ago, a vast body of science has shown that the mild-mannered mammal needs more, and different, areas protected -- and the feds can't ignore that need. Instead, they're saying they won't take action to save the manatee until they get more funding to do it. But with Florida's population blowing up, the last stand of precious manatee habitat could be developed or destroyed by boat-propeller damage, dams, pollution, marine debris, and other threats. Last year was the deadliest year on record for manatees, with a total of 429 deaths and a record 97 killed by collisions with boats.
"Today's decision to withhold critical habitat protections puts the Florida manatee in an administrative purgatory," said Center Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita. "Endangered species don't have time to wait for bureaucracy."
Read more in the St. Petersburg Times.
Center Petitions to Stop Frankenfish Chemicals -- Take Action With Us
To protect a wide variety of animals -- as well as humans -- from poisoning by hormone-altering drugs, the Center for Biological Diversity this week submitted a scientific petition to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals under the Clean Water Act. Endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with the body's endocrine system -- which regulates growth, metabolism, and tissue function -- can damage reproductive organs and offspring and cause developmental and immune problems in humans and wildlife, including endangered species like the California red-legged frog and desert pupfish.
But as the human population grows and our chemical use increases, more and more of these chemicals are being introduced to wildlife habitat and drinking water through pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, cosmetics, detergents, deodorants, and myriad other substances. The Center's petition calls on the EPA to adopt sensible limits that will eliminate or dramatically reduce these scary chemicals in U.S. waterways.
Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle and take action on endocrine disruptors today.
Help Save Sea Turtles, Hear Center Expert on Longline "Death Curtains"
Thousands of endangered leatherback sea turtles die each year during their epic migrations across the ocean, running into what have been aptly called "curtains of death": 60-mile-long lines of frightening fishhooks that snag and drown turtles and other ocean wildlife. To save leatherbacks from longline fishing and other deadly threats, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned and filed suit to earn them federally protected habitat, which was proposed this month to the tune of 45 million acres. Unfortunately, the protections proposed wouldn't save sea turtles from industrial fishing. Leatherbacks need humans to set aside hook-free habitat, or the ancient reptiles could finally succumb to extinction.
As Center attorney Andrea Treece reminded us in a radio interview this week, humans need sea turtles, too. "Sea turtles provide an indication of the health of our oceans and the health of us as a species, because we really do depend on our oceans to regulate the climate, to provide food, as well as to provide us with spiritual enrichment."
Tell the feds to protect leatherback habitat from all threats and hear Treece talk on WBAI New York radio.
Studies: Alaska Polar Bears and Walrus in Peril
Responding to a court order spurred by a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit, last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finished long-overdue reports confirming that polar bears in Alaska are declining and Pacific walrus are under threat. Both species are suffering from the loss of their sea-ice habitat to global warming, oil and gas development, and unsustainable hunting. "The science is in, and it shows that Alaska's polar bears and walrus are in big trouble," said Rebecca Noblin, with the Center's Climate Law Institute. "There is no longer any excuse to delay action to protect these great Arctic mammals. Without their sea-ice habitat, America's polar bears and walrus are doomed."
Check out our press release and learn more about our campaigns to save the polar bear and Pacific walrus.
Sneaky Sea Slug Is Part Animal, Part Plant
It's an animal -- it's a plant -- it's an Elysia chlorotica sea slug.
Yes, biologists have just announced that this species of green sea slug -- an animal, of course -- is also part plant. From the algae they eat, Elysia chlorotica slugs have stolen the DNA to produce the plant pigment chlorophyll, as well as the tiny cell parts called chloroplasts that plants use to conduct photosynthesis and get energy from the sun. The slugs can actually go their whole lives without eating, as long as they're in the sun for 12 hours a day and they've eaten enough algae to steal the chloroplasts they need. No one's quite sure how the slugs actually appropriate the plant genes, but they've been proven to do it so well that they can actually pass the genes on to baby slugs.
Learn more from MSNBC.
Volunteers Needed to Give Out Free Endangered Species Condoms
Want to do something to protect wildlife and habitat from overpopulation? Something exciting, important, and entertaining?
Be a part of the Center for Biological Diversity's brand-new Endangered Species Condom Project, a campaign to nationally distribute free condoms in six different packages featuring endangered species threatened by human overpopulation, with the goal of raising awareness about overpopulation's serious impacts on our planet. The packages will be released next month, and we need your help to get them out. Sign up and you can help us educate people across the country about what overpopulation does to species that don't have the privilege of over-reproducing -- or even reproducing enough to survive -- from the spotted owl to the Puerto Rico rock frog to the polar bear.
To get involved, click here now.
Photo credits: jaguar courtesy Flickr/tangywolf; southwestern willow flycatcher courtesy USGS; Galapagos petrel (c) Mike Danzenbaker, avesphoto.com; green sturgeon (c) Dan. W. Gotshall; Florida manatee courtesy USGS, Sirenia Project; California red-legged frog (c) Colin Brown; leatherback sea turtle courtesy Flickr/rustinpc under the Creative Commons attribution license; Pacific walrus courtesy USFWS; chloroplasts courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Kristian Peters under the Creative Commons attribution license; Mexican spotted owls (c) Robin Silver.
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